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Allahabad court says Vasudevanand Saraswati isn't Shankaracharya of Jyotir Mutt

For 26 years he has been donning the mantle of Shankaracharya of Jyotir Mutt. But now, Vasudevanand Saraswati is facing an existential crisis: he has been declared as 'fake' and asked by a court to stop heading the revered religious seat of Badrikashram.

In a significant ruling, a court in Allahabad has rubbished the claim of Vasudevanand over the seat and stated that Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati was the rightful Shankaracharya of Jyotir Mutt, located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

Swaroopanand had moved the court seeking his right to the seat as the Shankaracharya. In its order on Tuesday, the court confirmed Swaroopanand's plea and rejected the claim of Vasudevanand. The court asked Vasudevanand to stop using the title of Shankaracharya and not to sit on the throne and carry other symbols like a dandi and the special umbrella meant for the religious head.

According to Mahanushashan, a scripture written by Adi Shankar, an 8th-century saint, only a Shankaracharya is entitled to these symbols. Shankar had established four mutts - Jyotir Mutt at Badrinath in north, Sarada Mutt at Sringeri in south, Govardhan Mutt at Puri in east and Kalika Mutt at Dwarka in west. The 308-page court order also stated that Vasudevanand had furnished fake documents to prove his claim over the throne.

Incidentally, Vasudevanand is backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The Vishva Hindu Parishad promotes him at its meetings as the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Mutt. On the other hand, Swaroopanand is considered close to the Congress leaders.

During the hearing, the civil court (senior division) of Gopal Upadhyaya ordered Vasudevanand to stop claiming himself as a Shankaracharya. The court found that after a gap of 165 years, Swami Brahmanand Saraswati was anointed as the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Mutt in 1941.

Swami Brahmanand prepared his will on December 18, 1952 in which he said that Ramji Tripathi, Dwarika Prasad, Vishnu Devanand and Parmanand Saraswati would be next Shankaracharyas, one after another. However, Vishnu Devanand was made the Shankaracharya after Brahmanand's death with the help of some alleged unscrupulous elements. He nominated Krishna Bodhashram as his successor on June 25, 1953. Krishna Bodhashram remained on the throne till December 10, 1973.

But he didn't nominate his successor. Kashi Vidwatpeeth and Bharat Dharma Mahamandal - a group of saints who have got the right to entrust additional charge of a mutt to a revered saint in case the successor is not nominated -handed over the Jyotir Mutt to Swaroopanand in 1973. Later, he also became Shankaracharya of Dwarka Mutt.

However, Vasuedevanand in 1989 produced a will of Krishna Devanand, claiming that he was nominated by his guru as the next Shankaracharya. But the court found that Vasudevanand was never a disciple of Krishna Devanand and the documents, dated April 7, 1989 produced by him, were fake. It was on the basis of this document that Vasudevanand was anointed as the Shankaracharya on November 14, 1989. Adi Shankaracharya has written in his book Mahanushashan that someone would be a Shankaracharya if he is learned, knows the Veda, Vedanta and Shashtra well.

He should be a Brahmin and a disciple of a sitting Shankaracharya. He should be a Dandi Sanyasi. But the court concluded that Vasudevanand was never a Dandi Swami. Vasudevanand also had a job and till November 13, 1989 he was drawing salary.

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